Preview: Tennessee vs Vanderbilt

    by -

    Wade Baldwin-1

    Tennessee (15-15) vs Vanderbilt (19-12)

    Thursday, March 12th, 7:00 p.m. ET

      Bridgestone Arena (20,000) • Nashville, TN

    TV: SEC Network

    Probable Vanderbilt Starters

    G-Wade Baldwin IV, 6-3, 195, FR (8.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg)

    G-Riley LaChance, 6-2, 194, FR (12.5 ppg, .397 3FG%)

    G-Matthew Fisher-Davis, 6-5, 173, FR (6.9 ppg, .403 3FG%)

    F-James Siakam, 6-7, 225, SR (9.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg)

    F-Damian Jones, 6-10, 250, SO (14.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg)

    Probable Tennessee Starters

    G-Josh Richardson, 6-6, 200, SR (15.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg)

    G-Kevin Punter, 6-4, 180, JR (10.2 ppg, .360 3FG%)

    G-Robert Hubbs, 6-6, 206, SO (6.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg)

    F-Armani Moore, 6-5, 215, JR (10.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg)

    F-Derek Reese, 6-8, 220, JR (6.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg)

    Setting the Table 

    Outside of Kentucky, Vanderbilt is the hottest team in the SEC. They’ve won eight of their last 10 games and are draining 3-point shots at the highest rate in the conference. Tennessee, conversely, has won just two of their last 10 games and has been one of the worst shooting teams in the conference.

    Neither team can make it to the NCAA Tournament without cutting down the nets in Bridgestone Arena. The Vols probably have to make it to the championship game to get in the NIT while Vanderbilt should be solidly in that field.

    Vanderbilt and Tennessee split the season series, with the Vols staging an improbable comeback in Nashville and the Commodores catching fire for a comeback win in Knoxville.

    Quotable

    “They are probably playing, outside of Kentucky, as well as anybody. They went to Ole Miss and beat a really good Ole Miss team by double figures the other night. They are shooting the ball at an incredibly high percentage right now. So it will be key to take away the 3-point line as much as possible. With that being said, they have a very good inside game, particularly with (Damian) Jones, who is probably one of the better big men in our league. So it will be another tough challenge in Nashville on Thursday.”

    – Tennessee head coach Donnie Tyndall on Vanderbilt

    Injuries

    Freshman Vol power forward Jabari McGhee is out for the season after foot surgery. Junior Guard Devon Baulkman will be playing with a torn ligament in his left shoulder. He appeared to aggravate that injury during a collision in practice yesterday, but he did return to the floor and was effective. Ian Chiles, who missed significant time this season due to toe and shoulder injuries, had surgery on his injured shoulder and will miss the remainder of the season. 

    3 keys for the Vols

    1. Run Vandy Off 3-point Line, Don’t Over Help: Tennessee held Vanderbilt to 6-17 (35%) shooting from 3-point range in their win in Nashville thanks mainly to running the Commodores off the 3-point line with disciplined and energetic closeouts. Their meeting in Knoxville told a different story. Vanderbilt was 13-25 (52%) from 3-point range in what ended up as an eight point win for the Dores. The Vols need to use their athleticism to run Vanderbilt’s sharpshooters (they have four players who shoot at least 40% from beyond the arc) off the line then avoid over helping (so they don’t give up another open look) to beat Vanderbilt in Bridgestone Arena.  

    2. Win Turnover Battle: Vanderbilt ranks 12th in the SEC in turnover percentage while the Vols rank 13th – in other words, neither team takes particularly good care of the basketball. Tennessee ranks 2nd in the conference in forcing turnovers and should be able to exploit Vandy’s carelessness with the ball. The Vols have to win the turnover battle and capitalize on those turnovers to have a shot at the upset – they lost the TO battle in their home loss to the Commodores and won it in their victory at Vandy. 

    3. Attack the Paint, Find Balanced Scoring: The Vols are at their best when they’re attacking the paint and spacing the floor. Armani Moore and Josh Richardson both spoke about it on Wednesday – Tennessee can’t settle for jump shots. Even if Vanderbilt’s defense collapses, the Vols have to keep attacking and keep distributing the basketball. Outside of the matchup with Damian Jones, Tennessee will have an athletic advantage over the Commodores. Tennessee must exploit that get Richardson some scoring help from Hubbs, Punter, Moore and others.

    Predictions

    KenPom.com: Vanderbilt 67-60
    Daniel: Vanderbilt 65-60
    Houston: Tennessee 68-64
    Reed: Vanderbilt 70-64